[Editor's Note: This article was written in 2006 but we feel the points it makes about military marriage are as relevant as ever.]
I felt sadness but little surprise when I read the reports about the military's increased divorce rates during 2004. Military Family life always has weathered its unique challenges, and it's no different for today's Families.
Yet despite the hardships, many military marriages are strong. I am blessed to know several military couples who have stayed happily together through World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Society and circumstances change, of course, but I am encouraged and inspired each time I see these couples.What makes a successful military marriage? Believe me, I'm no marriage counselor, but I have observed several common traits among military couples who enjoy successful marriages:
An understanding that marriage and military life are voluntary choices. Couples who keep this fact in mind are better able to ward off feelings of resentment that occur when they feel they lack control of their circumstances.
A team approach to military life. These couples embrace the military as their lifestyle, not just the job of the Service-member. As a result, it is understood that success in mili-tary Family life requires active engagement by both partners.
Mutual respect which recognizes and honors the sacrifices of each partner. Successful couples fully appreciate and respect each other. They recognize that the "jobs" of the military member and the military spouse are difficult and challenging. The sacrifice of one partner is no less important than the sacrifice of the other. Each spouse is committed to the success of the other.
Frequent, honest communication. This is the foundation of all successful marriages, of course. While frequent and open communication is difficult in the current deployment situation, technological advances have made it easier. An important part of successful communication is to understand the other person and attempt to convey thoughts and feelings in a way the other partner will understand and evaluate.
A realistic perspective of military life. The successful couple sees their military journey as one chapter in their life together. Sometimes it may seem hard to believe, but most couples - even for those who make a career of the military - will spend more of their married years out of the service than in it. All lifestyles encompass certain benefits and challenges; accepting both the positive and negative aspects of military life helps maintain a realistic perspective and avoids unrealistic expectations.
A desire to be prepared for both military life and married life. Many successful couples took marriage preparation seriously from the beginning and continue to take advantage of marriage retreats and military Family programs such Army Family Team Building. Couples are better able to face and overcome challenges together when they can understand and anticipate them.
A network of friends that serve as a support group. This includes joint friends and individual friends, but all help provide support for the couple, particularly during periods of deployment. Your network also can help keep you accountable in your marriage and prevent you from doing something that violates your partner's trust.
A deep trust in each other. This trust is nurtured both when the couple is together and when it is apart.
Successful marriages don't just happen - they require constant commitment. Military marriages include difficult challenges and unusual pressures, but happiness and fulfillment certainly are possible. The evidence is all around you.